PERSPECTIVE: Adam Lury’s retreat marks final chapter in HHCL’s golden era

Adam Lury’s decision to retire from the ad industry marks the end of an era.

Adam Lury’s decision to retire from the ad industry marks the end

of an era.

At the time of HHCL’s ten-year anniversary in 1997, I said that the

agency appeared to have gone through three distinct eras marked by the

apparent ascendancy of one or other of the partners. The early days -

when First Direct, Fuji, Pepe, Mazda, Molson and even early Tango

polarised the ad industry - were the Lury years. At its best, HHCL’s

work was iconoclastic and refreshingly untrammelled by the clutter of

what ads ’were supposed to be like’. At its worst, HHCL’s advertising

was gimmicky and strategy-heavy. You could see Lury’s workings out. This

applied particularly when the ads were not honeyed by comedy. The UK ad

industry had never seen anything like it.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, HHCL came to be accepted. Campaigns such

as Tango, Maxell, R. White’s, Danepak, Pot Noodle and Mercury’s ’Harry

Enfield’ marked out the Steve Henry (and oft-overlooked Axel Chaldecott)

era. Humour was the honey. My favourite is the under-rated and unfunny

AA ’fourth emergency service’ work - as brilliant a piece of corporate

repositioning as there has been in the 90s.

HHCL was never liked. This is partly down to the endless PR offensive

conducted by the indomitable Rupert Howell, and partly because of a

competitive envy that evoked more malicious gossip about the agency than

any other over the past decade.

It’s an over-simplification, I know, but with the 1994 deal to absorb

key members of IMP, and the launch of Michaelides & Bednash, In Real

Life and the HHCL Brasserie, the agency became Rupert Howell’s. It’s

part of the establishment now, for worse - and better. Howell is the

public face; his appointment as the Institute of Practitioners in

Advertising’s president only serving to underline the turnaround

epitomised by the deal with Tim Bell’s Chime Communications.

During this period, Henry went walkabout and Lury stepped back, working

exclusively through HHCL’s Lury Price Associates consultancy operation.

St Luke’s emerged to steal the young radicals positioning. But in the

last year, post-Blackcurrant Tango ’St George’, Henry has returned with

a bang. The agency’s strategic insights for the likes of Egg and Pearl

Assurance have been as powerful as much of the early work. Notably,

these campaigns have polarised opinion again.

To me, Lury was always the key partner. Politically correct, his

influence pervaded the agency itself. Until the IMP deal, there were

precious few men in grey suits or babes in mini-skirts adorning the

agency reception. It was the agency that was unafraid to come up with

Fuji and Pepe, whatever we thought of them.

Lury himself is one of the more decent and intelligent men in the

business, and genuinely believed advertising could be used as a force

for good.

The UK ad industry never totally embraced him, nor did he wish to be so

embraced. But without him, it is a duller place.


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